Cricket Australia has lost its delegation

In all codes of football, the off-season is colloquially known as the silly season.  This winter, the cricket silly season has reached a depth never before seen.

Let’s take a look at the two sides of this dispute to try and understand where this chasm has occurred.

To become a Test cricketer, the path has remained relatively the same for the past 120 years.  You play for your Grade club and perform so well you get selected to play for your State.  Do well in the Sheffield Shield and you are bestowed a Baggy Green.

The path to be on the Australian Cricket Board was remarkably similar.  First you had to be a paid up member of a Grade cricket club and be elected by the members of that Club to be their delegate to the State Association.

At the State Association, the delegates would vote amongst themselves to elect an Executive Board.  From that Executive Board, they elected delegates to the Australian Cricket Board.

This ensured that at the very top, Board members were directly attached to the grass-roots level of the game.  It wasn’t an out-of-the-ordinary situation where a high-ranking official lost their spot because they lost the support of their peers at Club level.

Player payments in cricket, up until the early 1990’s, were as archaic as the 1890’s.  Elite players may have been on some very basic payment contracts with their club.  For example, batsmen would get a dollar for every run scored, bowlers twenty dollars for every wicket taken during the season.  The player would then receive their match payment for each interstate one day game or Shield match that they played then they would receive match payments for each Test Match or One Day International they played.

The lucky few might get money from sponsorships and endorsements.  Max Walker had advertisements with Aeroguard and Ardmona fruit and was potentially Australia’s highest paid cricketer at the time.

Most were still slogging it out in a 9 to 5 full-time job, with generous employers who gave plenty of leave – without pay.  Others sought out contracts in the County Championship or the lower leagues of those Counties during the English summer.

The money received for playing the game was miniscule, when Kerry Packer came with his cheque book to create World Series Cricket, the players signed on in droves.

Even after this spike in player’s income, there was no base salary, no guarantee of income in the event of injury.

The creation of the collective bargaining agreement between the Australian Cricketer’s Association and Cricket Australia in the mid 1990’s, gave a basic wage guarantee to all the players at first class level that they had a level of financial security to pursue a career in the game.

Ironically, the security of the players has also occurred at a time when crowds to the Sheffield Shield have reduced to less than a non-TAB country horse racing event.

In an attempt to create more security at first class level, the naming rights of the Sheffield Shield was put up for sale.  Who else still buys Pura Milk?

Ultimately, it is a system that has worked well for two decades.

Around 2010, Cricket Australia changed its constitution to introduce what is known as “Independent Directors.”

This was introduced to defeat two lines of objection.  The first was that there was too much politics as the delegates of each state would vote in blocs, usually along the lines of everyone else versus New South Wales and Victoria.

The second objection, came from former players such as Greg Chappell.  In his 2011 book “Fierce Focus” Chappell lamented that during his playing and coaching career he had to convince a bunch of retired butchers, bakers and candle stick makers to modernise the business of the game.

Sure, having the experience of people who have run multi-million dollar companies, lawyers, accountants on the Board of Management for a sport which earns millions of dollars a year seems to be the most sensible thing to do.

The majority of the Board of Cricket Australia now has no affiliation with the grass-roots of the game.  It is a model which has been adopted at State level, as well.

Club Delegates now have very little voice in the makeup of the controlling body of the game.  A game which is dependent on these Clubs to find, coach and develop the Test players of tomorrow.

We have a Board of Cricket Australia that see a group of players as their employees.  Board Members who have an ideological distrust of collective bargaining and will only negotiate on an individual level.

These giants of business and industry seem hell-bent to destroy the fabric of a game they have no understanding of, and if they’re not careful run the risk of leaving Australian Cricket in the same basket the West Indies have been in for twenty years.

There are dozens of players around the globe who do not have a “centralised contract” with their home boards but instead are being paid quite handsomely in all of the Twenty20 circuses.

Ironically, there has never been a better time in the game to be a player going from one short-term individual contract to the next, than right now.

The solidarity amongst the players has been commendable.  Their argument is valid, a revenue sharing regime ensures there is enough money left for the administrators to invest back into the grass-roots of the game.

The administrators are running the risk of devaluing broadcast rights, sponsorship agreements and creating an atmosphere in that they will not be trusted to negotiate on a commercial level in good faith.

In the politics of Industrial Relations in this country, Cricket Australia are on the wrong side of public opinion.

 

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.

Comments

  1. The Wrap says:

    Thanks Wayne. So clearly put I’m going straight down to the shops to buy a quart of Pura milk.

  2. John Butler says:

    Great analysis Wayne.

    I agree, this reeks of a union-busting attempt that is going seriously pear shaped.

    It would be worth examining the background and business performance of some of those who are on the CA Board now. Past behavior indicates future inclination.

    The whole drift away from club cricket has been incremental and largely unopposed. After this effort, they can hardly claim to have taken the politics out of decision making.

    Cheers

  3. Dave Brown says:

    Interesting Wayne. I’ve read pretty widely on this subject in the last week and am still no closer to seeing a way out. I’m inclined to support organised workers and am surprised by the uncompromising tactics of CA. The longer this goes on the greater the likelihood that an Australian Ashes team will have had a significantly interrupted preparation which would be a great shame.

  4. John, you might not be far of the mark. The current chairman of Cricket Australia, is David Peevers, a former managing director of Rio Tinto. Rio Tinto have hardly established themselves globally as an employer that has great love for a unionised workforce.

    Another board member is Bob Avery from Wesfarmers. If these pair are reflective of the current board i don’t see them reflecting grass roots cricket.

    No matter how this finishes, it does not look good with an Ashes series just a few months away.

    Glen!

  5. Peter Crossing says:

    Thanks for this concise analysis Wayne. Well done.
    The attitude of Cricket Australia in their decision to alter the agreement rules without any negotiation with the Cricketer’s Association harks back to the days when the Australian Cricket Board ran roughshod over the players who were expected to “know their place” in the scheme of things.
    For many years, the John Creswell, Mostyn Evan, George Giffen and Sir Edwin Smith grandstands at the Adelaide Oval were adorned with small flagpoles, each bearing the flag of an Adelaide District Cricket club. A player or club member could look at the club flag and think, “That’s my club. We are part of this.” The flags are long gone, even before the recent renovations. To my way of thinking, this represents a fair metaphor for what has happened to Australian cricket.

  6. The Wrap says:

    Rio, and not a few of the other corporate giants, have made some disastrous tactical & strategic blunders over recent years, and been involved in some blatant & unsavoury financial short cuts and cover-ups. Welcome to the modern world Glen. Hopefully the greed & evil people implode before too long so we can get running on an even keel again and a true course. It could just be than when they’re brought out into the public spotlight through issues like this could hasten the end.

  7. Citrus Bob says:

    Well said Wayne. As some one who has a close alliance with present and past players I can assure you that they will hold out as long as they can to get what they , no not they, but the whole cricket fraternity wants.
    I am very afraid that what we beileve “sport” is now is being seriously eroded by the corporate sector more than it ever has before and unless we at the grass roots start making a real noise sport will disappear in to the ether. This is of great concern for a nation that has grown on the back of sports.
    Peter Crossing hit the nail on the head in regard to the club flags at the SACA – disgraceful.

  8. I hear that Mike Sutherland will now involve himself in the process. Maybe the best thing he could do is get rid of an ideological warrior like David Peevers, then try to work out a panacea that ‘s the best for Australian Cricket.

    The longer this drags on the more damage it does to our summer game.

    Glen!

  9. Maybe David Peevers is the all rounder Australian cricket has long sought . Not just is an executive from one of the worlds biggest mining companies, as well overseeing Australian cricket, i hear he has another string to his bow.

    The Australian PM has asked him to help select the new defence chief. Sir Garfield Sobers bowled pace, spin, as well being a record breaking batsmen . It seems David Peevers also has skills in three areas. Amazing.

    Glen!

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